The EU And UK Are Seeing Red With Jedi Blue; The Programmatic Portfolio Performance Review

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Jedi Black And Blue

The EU and UK opened investigations into Google and Facebook’s ad-serving partnership that allegedly diverted funds from header bidding Friday. 

“Via the so-called ‘Jedi Blue’ agreement between Google and Meta, a competing technology to Google’s Open Bidding may have been targeted with the aim to weaken it and exclude it from the market,” says Margrethe Vestager, who oversees EU competition policy, in a release.

The Jedi Blue deal dates to September 2018, which is shortly after Facebook committed to open programmatic header bidding tech, and shortly before Facebook reversed that pledge and channeled $500 million to Google instead. It came to light last year in an antitrust case by state attorneys general. 

The state AGs may not beat Google in court – Google is asking a federal judge to dismiss the suit, the first time it’s tried to dismiss a competition case brought by the US government. But even if the case is dismissed, the damage is done. Like when a New York judge unsealed even more detail from the antitrust suit. 

These revelations will fuel suits like we’re seeing in Europe, where regulators with much higher success rates when it comes to landing fines and penalties on US tech can take the baton from US AGs.

Can A Few Good Apples Unspoil The Bushel?

The Wall Street investor take on ad tech right now is … not good. Practically every company is in the red lately. 

The whole Nasdaq is down 15% in the past three months. But a basket of 18 programmatic and digital media stocks is down 40%, writes Tom Triscari, who runs the programmatic boutique Lemonade Projects and has been publishing results of a theoretical ad tech stock bundle for four years.

Zeta Global is the only company that’s grown in the past quarter – its stock is up by a third since it IPO’d last June, and made all of those gains in the past two months. 

Despite the latest stock market fender bender – don’t call it a crash – Triscari’s programmatic portfolio is up a healthy 419% since January 2018. 

The IPOs and consolidations aren’t helping the portfolio, though, because they mostly add underperformers to the mix, he writes. 

“From an investor’s POV, it’s starting to become more clear that any desire to get exposure to ad tech returns – outside of Google, Facebook and Amazon – could be accomplished by holding just The Trade Desk.”

The CTV Consolidation Ceiling

Discovery and WarnerMedia investors agreed to their $43 billion merger. The two will become one sometime in April. But the merged network, to be dubbed Warner Bros. Discovery, will put its parent company many billion dollars in debt, Variety reports.

Therein lies the rub: to make money in streaming, you need to spend a whole lot on content.

Despite all of the M&A in the TV programmer space, it’s far from over. Tech and TV giants like Amazon, Apple and Comcast are waiting to swoop in on streaming services that may slip or try to sell. 

For example, one potential acquisition target is Paramount, which just changed its name from ViacomCBS (phew, Warner Bros. Discovery is probably a placeholder name, too). Earlier this week, Paramount CEO Bob Bakish said he’d consider his company “an attractive acquisition target,” IndieWire reports. But it would be difficult for Comcast to acquire Paramount, since it already owns TV networks and the NBCUniversal studio. 

The difficulty comes from gaining regulatory approval. Although the WarnerMedia and Discovery acquisition got the go-ahead from the Department of Justice, big players must choose and tread carefully. Horizontal acquisitions – buying a competitor rather than entering a new category – is a lot harder to push past antitrust regulators. Amazon’s still waiting for approval of its $8.5 billion offer for MGM, a much smaller studio and streaming player than Paramount.

But Wait, There’s More!

Apples and oranges: behind Apple’s outrageous bullying on trademarks. [NYT]

W3C expert Robin Berjon on Project Bernanke. [blog]

BuzzFeed is now a public stock, but can it build a long-term digital media winner? [CNBC]

TikTok nears deal with Oracle to store US user data in US servers, hoping to allay security fears of its Chinese ownership. [Reuters]

The GDPR effect: How data privacy regulation shaped company performance globally. [CEPR]

Ecommerce brand aggregator BRANDED partners with crowdsourcing platform Indiegogo to finance ideas and products. [release]

“It was surprising:” IAB Europe’s CEO on the uncertain future of third-party addressability. [Digiday]

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